A Trip to Texas Provides a Long Sought Photographic Opportunity - Observation of the Week, 6/21/20

Our Observation of the Week is this Long-tailed Giant Ichneumonid Wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus), seen in the United States by @cholmesphoto!

“I became interested in Megarhyssa a number of years ago when I stumbled across a congregation of males of M. macrurus and M. greenei on a log waiting to mate with emerging females,” recalls New York based photographer Clarence Holmes. “I was able to capture photos of the males, but one of my macro targets since then has been to capture photos of a female (particularly M. macrurus ovipositing). I have had limited opportunities until recently.”

That changed, however, on a recent trip to the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas this spring. On his first visit to the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA) he found an ovipositing female but couldn’t get a good angle on it.  “At the time I added it to my long mental list of missed opportunities and moved on...

The next day I returned to investigate a few different trails, and while walking one of them stopped to take in a view along a creek.  I detected motion to my right and there I saw three female M. macrurus all ovipositing on the same tree!  I took time to observe their behavior and was able to capture my long desired photo of the female ovipositing.

Take a look at Clarence’s photo and you’ll see the remarkable mechanism this insect uses to get her young off to a good start. Megarhyssa wasps, also known as “stump stabbers”, are able to detect their hosts (the wood-boring larvae of Tremex columba sawflies) then drill into the wood using their incredible long ovipositors (this can take 40 minutes!). The translucent blue membrane you see at the base of the ovipositor pushes it into the wood as the tip cuts. Once the host is found, it is stung and paralyzed, then the egg is laid. The wasp larva will consume the paralyzed host then pupate in the burrow before emerging. 

Growing up in the US state of Ohio, Clarence (above) tells me he’s always been interested in nature, and observed the various birds, insects and plants in his backyard and beyond. “I started doing macro photography of insects in my teens and it has been a constant throughout my life,” he says. “I have expanded my observation of nature as a birder, and recently have taken an interest in fungi and lichens. I license many of my photos of the natural world for various uses including print publications and for use on the web.”

He joined iNat in late 2018 and started uploading his photos and making IDs in 2019. He first tries to use resources like field guides and BugGuide, but says iNats help if he’s stumped (no pun intended).

My primary interest is insects and spiders, but I have also posted observations of anything in nature that I have been able to capture photos of. I spend a lot of time out in the field hoping to discover, observe, capture (photos), and learn about insects and any other aspects of nature that I encounter. iNaturalist has added to these activities by helping me see what others are seeing in my area, by helping me identify what I see, and by allowing me to improve my identification skills in many taxons.

- by Tony Iwane

- You can check out Clarence’s photos here, he’s got quite a diverse portfolio.

- This page goes into the Megarhyssa oviposition process in some detail and includes video. Pretty sweet!

- This is not the first Observation of the Week from LLELA - take a trip with us down memory lane back to December of 2015!

Posted by tiwane tiwane, June 22, 2020 01:16


A truly wonderful shot of an amazing moment that most of us will never see in person. Thank you for sharing this with us!

Posted by susanhewitt almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Unbelievable! Hats off to you for being in the right place at the right time.

Posted by amzapp almost 2 years ago (Flag)

It almost looks like the wasp is pinned to the tree, but that's its ovipositor. Such an impressive photo!

Posted by nataliewaddellrutter almost 2 years ago (Flag)

This is really cool! LLELA is one of my favorite places to go, and I have seen these wasps at work; I'm not nearly this technically skilled or talented to get a photo like this so I definitely appreciate seeing it with this observation! Fantastic!

Posted by jblinde almost 2 years ago (Flag)

That's absolutely stunning.

Posted by jmaughn almost 2 years ago (Flag)


Posted by diegoalmendras almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Fantastic shot! Thanks for sharing your story.

Posted by tkoffel almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Way to go, Clarence! :)

Posted by sambiology almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Fantastic find and photos! I first became aware of Ichneumenoid wasps last year. They are fascinating! Congrats.

Posted by cesarcastillo almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Fantastic photo! Thank you :)

Posted by claudia_ma almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Such a thrill when a long awaited moment/opportunity is realized. Congratulations on your stunning photo and thank you for your generous contributions to learning.

Posted by bethd almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Wonderful photography and an exceptional observation! Congratulations and thank you!

Posted by leejones almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Wow this is awesome!

Posted by lisa_bennett almost 2 years ago (Flag)

wow, amazing, you must be incredible satisfied with this shot...

Posted by tjeerddw almost 2 years ago (Flag)

I love the patience and persistence that went into this observation. iNaturalist is richer for it. Thank you!

Posted by janetwright almost 2 years ago (Flag)

To me, this is another example of reality being stranger than fiction. That the wasp can find the host, drill through wood with that slim ovipositor, paralyse the larva and lay it's own eggs inside, is mind boggling. I love it! That beautiful picture and beautiful wasp makes it even more wonderful.

Posted by mamestraconfigurata almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Mind-blowing! That photo is inspiring me to get out and take more macro shots.

Posted by mmulqueen almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Gorgeous shot!

Posted by star3 almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Outstanding Clarence! looks like I need more patience next time I find one.

Posted by dtibbetts almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Awesome shot! Ty for sharing it!

Posted by yankeelima almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Wonderfully astonishing shot!!...and, Creature!

Posted by katharinab almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Oh, lucky you!! That has been on my own wish list for years, but I've never even seen one. Beautiful capture, and I can only imagine how excited you were!

Posted by ashley_bradford almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Wow Mr. Holmes! That is a wonderful photo. Congratulations on being in the right place and thank you for sharing this.

Posted by dhend9 almost 2 years ago (Flag)

How wonderful! So happy you have shared this !

Posted by ncrosby almost 2 years ago (Flag)

An amazing observation Clarence! I would love to see this also!~ I was happy to recently ID a Berry's Skipper for you. Another amazing observation! Your work and images are superb!

Posted by seaheart88 almost 2 years ago (Flag)

They are amazing. Love your photo, much better than any I've captured out here at LLELA. If you happen to come back to the DFW area, please reach out and if you are interested, I'll get you back to some of the areas not visited much by humans.

Posted by freiheit almost 2 years ago (Flag)

That's complete insanity - awesome picture and observation!!!!!!!!

Posted by atrox77 almost 2 years ago (Flag)

This is incredible!

Posted by jencorman almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Stunning! Mr. Holmes, kudos for you patience and for capturing such a beautiful shot.

Posted by iwillcockson almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Congratulations! Your pics are amazing.

Posted by sujan040 almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Wow!!! Thanks, @cholmesphoto , for taking the time to get to know this stunning lady and her habits and sharing the photos with us all. I had one encounter with the genus a few years ago and it hooked me into more appreciation for the whole beautiful world of wasps. Recently I watched an ichnuemonid species oviposit on a cobweb spider for about fifteen minutes and was completely awestruck by the process. Amazing photos, keep 'em coming :)

Posted by mira_l_b almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Wow.. Just WOW Clarence!

Posted by metsa almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Amazing capture!

Posted by pufferchung almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Incredible story Clarence, and such a beautiful and magical shot.

Posted by marthar almost 2 years ago (Flag)

So awesome, Clarence!! Amazing photo and observation!

Posted by grodz almost 2 years ago (Flag)

wonderful opportunity !! Thanks for your work and patience.

Posted by tandria almost 2 years ago (Flag)

That is an incredible photo! Amazing work!

Posted by javigonz almost 2 years ago (Flag)

This is one of my all time favorite observations! I love to see photos like this showing something about the insect world that is rarely witnessed. This is a great photo, and it is nice to hear about finding something that you have long sought to photograph! The fact that this wasp will drill into a stump and find a specific species of larva to lay its eggs is another wonder of this world.

Posted by leafybye almost 2 years ago (Flag)

AMAZING! Fantastic shot and congrats on getting it! I'm a Texan living elsewhere and I can't wait to go back for more iNaturalist opportunities.

Posted by meldrake almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Wow! Amazing picture, and I like the story behind it. Congratulations to Observation of the Week, @cholmesphoto!
And as usual, I learned something new reading this. Fascinating wasp!

Posted by annikaml almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Incredible shot @cholmesphoto ! Congratulations on fulfilling a goal and many thanks for sharing the photo and the story. As a fan of wasps, this is inspirational to me.

Posted by jtkindt almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Be still my heart. Great shot and awesome insect. Take a bow!

Posted by pam-piombino almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Congratulations @cholmesphoto! You think this is a part of one Megarhyssa or related? It was around 3cm and was inside one rotting log, one of the extremes was kind of the end since it was covered in "exoskeleton" and not leaking the insides

Posted by langlands almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Congratulations @cholmesphoto ! That is a beautiful image and observation. I love the video page too! I have had the fortune of seeing this as well, and I can recall my amazement at what I was witnessing, though I did not really understand at the time. I'm glad you saw wonderful nature in Texas!

Posted by mikef451 almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Wow, this is fantastic! It is great to observe such a great capture, how fascinating!

Posted by paulabetz almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Just saw this picture. How gorgeous! Congratulations!

Posted by mokennon about 1 year ago (Flag)

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